Tag Archives: director’s cut

Superman II 2.50: Ice Cops

One of these days, I’m going to write about a movie that isn’t actually two different movies. Specifically, that’ll be a little over a week from now, when I wrap up Superman II at post 2.55, and move on to a simple little boy-meets-girl thriller called Swamp Thing.

But in order to land this movie, I need to talk about two endings — Richard Lester’s theatrical cut, and the Donner Cut — which take different routes to get to the same frankly unsatisfying story point. And today, as we bid farewell to the giant Arendelle ice castle, I’ve actually got three different versions to discuss. I guess some people have a problem with letting things go.

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Superman II 2.36: The Do-Over

They could not have been more clear about this.

“Once exposed to these rays,” Lara said, “all your great powers on Earth will disappear forever.” He said he was okay with that. “But consider,” she said, “once it is done, there is no return.” He did it anyway.

And now here he is at customer service, with his receipt for one slightly used mortality, and he’s asking to speak to the manager. He’s got a green crystal powered by pure narrativium, which comes with an “all his great powers”-back guarantee.

So now I don’t know who to trust. What else did the crystal machine lie to him about? Next, you’re going to tell me that you’ve seen a poem lovely as a tree.

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Superman II 2.23: The One Where Lois Finds Out

It’s the most significant moment in Lois Lane’s significant moment-heavy life, so it’s a shame that it begins with her talking about what a fool she is.

“Boy, I sure must have looked like an idiot,” she mutters. Her hairstyle doesn’t look that bad. Oh, she means the river thing. “Jumping in the river, waiting for Mister Wonderful… who obviously had better things to do.” I remember the days when Lois Lane was the coolest person in the world.

“Where’s my comb?” she asks. “Where’s my comb?” she repeats, with her head on a swivel. “God, not only have I lost my mind, I’ve lost my comb.” Then Clark trips over a pink polyester bearskin rug and falls face first into the furnace, and that’s how Lois didn’t figure out that Clark was Superman.

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Superman II 2.6: Gone Out the Window

And then she goes ahead and throws herself out of the goddamn window just to prove a point, and that is what I love about specifically Richard Donner’s version of specifically Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.

At the end of last week, I told you about the Donner Cut, a 2006 effort to reclaim the Superman II footage that Richard Donner shot during the production of the first movie. He’d finished about 80% of the film before the Salkinds fired him, and while some of that footage remains in the theatrical cut, there was a lot that was reshot by the new director, so the Donner Cut assembles the material in an approximation of what the film could have been like, if he’d completed it.

For the most part, it’s not that different from the theatrical release, unless you watch them side by side. There are only three scenes in the Donner Cut that I think are really essential to understanding the development of the film: the beginning, the ending, and the honeymoon hotel discovery sequence. Not coincidentally, all of them are about Lois.

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Superman II 2.5: The Donner Party

Or, there’s the option where Lois is smart and figures things out right away, which I personally prefer.

In this version of Superman II, the action begins on the day after the previous movie ended. Yesterday, Superman saved the West Coast and put Lex Luthor in jail, and now the main characters in the Daily Planet newsroom are all busily congratulating each other on how well they covered the story.

And then Lois, sitting at her desk, suddenly realizes the obvious truth: that Clark Kent is Superman.

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Superman 1.67: The Gauntlet

Hey gang, it’s time for another round of What Did Mankiewicz Do, the fascinating behind-the-scenes game where we look at old drafts of the Superman: The Movie script, and figure out how script doctor and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz solved its many glaring problems.

So far, we’ve seen how Mankiewicz made the Kents more appealing, took the corny sci-fi cliches out of the Jor-El/Lara scene, and made Lex Luthor stop chewing Kleenex all the time. Now we’ve arrived at the largest and most important structural change that Mankiewicz made to the script: taking three Lex Luthor/Superman confrontations spaced out through the second half of the film, and compressing them down into just one climactic face-off between the hero and the villain.

Now, you would think that having the hero and the villain only share one scene together in the whole movie would be a bad idea, but that’s because you haven’t seen the volcano sequence yet. In this movie, it was the right call. Allow me to explain.

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Superman 1.65: You’re Doing It Wrong

And he flies, soaring across the sky on wings made of wax and feathers and cables and front projection. He catches a reporter, a helicopter, a burglar, a boat, a cat and a very important airplane all in a row, and deposits each one exactly where it’s supposed to be, as the crowd cheers. He is here, and he is magnificent.

And then he goes home and gets yelled at by his dad, which I for one find intolerable.

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Superman 1.48: Feed the Babies

Now, if it were entirely up to me, I’d probably stop writing about this Lex Luthor scene at some point, rather than natter on endlessly about it, but I can’t help it; there are larger market forces at play.

Richard Donner ended this scene with Luthor and his sidekick Otis saying in unison, “What more could anyone ask?” But, as it turned out, people did want to ask for more — specifically, the Salkinds, who wanted more money from television sales. TV networks wanted to air Superman, and they were happy to have as much of it as possible, to fill up programming time and justify more commercial breaks. They were willing to pay by the minute, so the Salkinds prepared what’s now called the Extended Cut, taking a 143-minute movie and stretching it out to 188 minutes.

Most of the extra material is just useless filler — slightly longer scenes, extra reaction shots, second-unit footage — all the stuff that was properly cut out the first time, and adds nothing to the experience except making things take longer. But there are a handful of actual deleted scenes, like Krypton’s tinfoil science cop, who exploded before accomplishing anything.

There’s also another two minutes of this introductory Luthor scene, which aren’t necessary but offer several items of interest. If you don’t mind, I’m going to give you the whole scene, and then we can discuss it.

Continue reading Superman 1.48: Feed the Babies